Friday, March 16, 2012

Fr. Guarnizo Speaks Out

I have done several posts on the situation with Fr. Marcel Guarnizo, who was reprimanded and placed on "administrative leave" by an auxillary bishop after Fr. Guarnizo refused communion to a professed lesbian.  Bishop Barry Knestout wrote a statement saying that the reason for placing Fr. Guarnizo on administrative leave had nothing do with the incident in question.  I personally don't buy that, and it seems that Fr. Guarnizo doesn't believe it, either.  Below is a statement that Fr. Guarnizo released in which he explains exactly what happened.





Fr. Marcel Guarnizo’s Response to the Eucharistic Incident
I would like to begin by once again sending my condolences to the Johnson family on the death of Mrs. Loetta Johnson.

I also feel obliged to answer questions from my parishioners, as well as from the public, about the incident on February 25th.

Here are the facts: On Saturday, February 25th I showed up to officiate at a funeral Mass for Mrs. Loetta Johnson. The arrangements for the Mass were also not my own. I wish to clarify that Ms. Barbara Johnson (the woman who has since complained to the press), has never been a parishioner of mine. In fact, I had never met her or her family until that morning.

The funeral celebration was to commence at 10:30a.m.

From 9:30 to 10:20, I was assigned to hear confessions for the parish and anyone in the funeral party who would have chosen to receive the sacrament.

A few minutes before the Mass began, Ms. Johnson came into the sacristy with another woman whom she announced as her “lover." Her revelation was completely unsolicited. As I attempted to follow Ms. Johnson, her lover stood in our narrow sacristy physically blocking my pathway to the door. I politely asked her to move and she refused.

I understand and agree it is the policy of the archdiocese to assume good faith when a Catholic presents himself for communion; like most priests I am not at all eager to withhold communion. But the ideal cannot always be achieved in life.

In the past ten days, many Catholics have referenced Canon 915 in regard to this specific circumstance. There are other reasons for denying communion which neither meet the threshold of Canon 915 or have any explicit connection to the discipline stated in that canon.

If a Quaker, a Lutheran or a Buddhist, desiring communion had introduced himself as such, before Mass, a priest would be obligated to withhold communion. If someone had shown up in my sacristy drunk, or high on drugs, no communion would have been possible either. If a Catholic, divorced and remarried (without an annulment) would make that known in my sacristy, they too according to Catholic doctrine, would be impeded from receiving communion. This has nothing to do with Canon 915. Ms. Johnson’s circumstances are precisely one of those relations which impede her access to communion according to Catholic teaching. Ms. Johnson was a guest in our parish, not the arbitrer of how sacraments are dispensed in the Catholic Church.

In all of the above circumstances, I would have been placed in a similar uncomfortable position. Under these circumstances, I quietly withheld communion, so quietly that even the Eucharistic Minister standing four feet from me was not aware I had done so. (In fact Ms. Johnson promptly chose to go to the Eucharistic minister to receive communion and did so.) There was no scandal, no “public reprimand” and no small lecture as some have reported.

Details matter. Ms. Johnson was not kneeling when she approached for communion, she did not receive the cup as the press has reported she has stated. It is the policy of St. John Neumann parish never to distribute under both species during funerals.

During the two eulogies (nearly 25 minutes long), I quietly slipped for some minutes into the sacristy lavatory to recover from the migraine that was coming on. I never walked out on Mrs. Loetta Johnson’s funeral and the liturgy was carried out with the same reverence and care that I celebrate every Mass. I finished the Mass and accompanied the body of the deceased in formal procession to the hearse, which was headed to the cemetery. I am subject to occasional severe migraines, and because the pain at that point was becoming disabling, I communicated to our funeral director that I was incapacitated and he arranged one of my brother priests to be present at the cemetery to preside over the rite of burial.

Furthermore, as the testimony of the priest that was at the cemetery conveys, he was present when the Johnson family arrived, and in fact mentioned that being called to cover the burial rite is quite normal, as many priests for reasons much less significant than mine (rush hour traffic, for example) do not make the voyage to the cemetery. He routinely covers for them. This change in plans, was also invisible to the rest of the entourage. Regrets and information about my incapacitating migraine were duly conveyed to the Johnson family.

I have thanked the funeral director and the priest at the burial site, for their assistance that day. Mrs. Loetta Johnson was properly buried with every witness and ceremony a Catholic funeral can offer. I did not and would not refuse to accompany Barbara Johnson and her mother to the cemetery because she is gay or lives with a woman. I did not in any way seek to dishonor her memory, and my homily at the funeral should have made that quite evident to all in the pews, including the Johnson family.

I would like to extend again to Ms. Johnson and her family, my sincerest condolences on her mother’s death. I would never intentionally want or seek to embarrass anyone publicly or increase anyone’s emotional distress during such a difficult time. I did not seek or contrive these circumstances.

But I am going to defend my conduct in these instances, because what happened I believe contains a warning to the church. Such circumstances can and will be repeated multiple times over if the local church does not make clear to all Catholics that openly confessing sin is something one does to a priest in the confessional, not minutes before the Mass in which the Holy Eucharist is given.  [I give a great big AMEN to this!]
I am confident that my own view, that I did the only thing a faithful Catholic priest could do in such an awkward situation, quietly, with no intention to hurt or embarrass, will be upheld. [Holy Communion is different from handing out candy - we are talking about the body and blood of our Lord, which needs to be protected from desecration.  Fr. Guarnizo absolutely did the right thing.Otherwise, any priest could--and many will--face the cruelest crisis of conscience that can be imposed. It seems to me, the lack of clarity on this most basic issue puts at risk other priests who wish to serve the Catholic Church in Washington D.C.As to the latest allegations, I feel obliged to alleviate unnecessary suffering for the faithful at St. John Neumann and others who are following the case.

I wish to state that in conversation with Bishop Barry Knestout on the morning of March 13, he made it very clear that the whole of the case regarding the allegations of “intimidation” are circumscribed to two conversations; one with the funeral director and the other with a parish staff member present at the funeral. These conversations took place on March 7th and 8th, one day before the archdiocese’s latest decision to withdraw faculties (not suspend, since Cardinal Wuerl is not my bishop) on the 9th of March. I am fully aware of both meetings. And indeed contrary to the statement read on Sunday, March 11th during all Masses at St. John Neumann, both instances have everything to do with the Eucharistic incident. There is no hidden other sin or “intimidation” allegations that they are working on, outside of these two meetings.  The meetings in question, occurred in our effort to document from people at the funeral Mass in written form a few facts about the nature of the incident. We have collected more than a few testimonies and affidavits, testifying to what really took place during the funeral liturgy.

My personal conversation with both parties in question were in my view civil, professional and in no way hostile. I respect both individuals in question and really do not know the nature of their grievance.

On March 13, I asked Bishop Knestout about detail on this matter but he stated that he was not at liberty to discuss the matter. I would only add for the record, that the letter removing me from pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Washington, was already signed and sealed and on the table when I met with Bishop Knestout on March 9, even before he asked me the first question about the alleged clash.  In the days to come I look forward to addressing any confusion about the above conversations if the archdiocese or the persons involved wish to talk about it publicly or privately.

I am grateful for all the good wishes and prayers I have received. And sincerely, having lost my own mother not long ago, I again extend my condolences to the Johnson family. I finally wish for the good of the Universal Church, the archdiocese, my parish and the peace of friends and strangers around the world, that the archdiocese would cease resolving what they call internal personnel matters of which they cannot speak, through the public media.  I remain my bishop’s and my Church’s, and above all Christ Jesus’ obedient servant,

Very truly yours,

Father Marcel Guarnizo
The Catholic Church is truly in a shambles when bishops are defending sinners and persecuting good and holy priests.  Fr. Malachi Martin said one time that the institutional church as we see it today is a Potemkin Village, a phony shell with nothing inside.  I believe that, unfortunately, is true.  That is not to say that there isn't a thriving and holy Church in the world.  But it is not the institutional church that we see.  Our Holy Father has told us that the church will become very small.  It has already happened. 

We need to always be testing the spirits.  Stay close to the Blessed Mother.  She will never steer you wrong.  And pray for priests like Fr. Guarnizo.  We are in the heat of a spiritual war. 


The Spiritual State of the Church Today


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reflections on the Blessed Mother at the Foot of the Cross

As part of my Lenten practices, I have been trying to do the Seven Sorrows of Mary everyday, and also the Stations of the Cross.  I don't have time to do these at church, so I actually pray them by using my Ipod.  I guess it's the 21st  Century way.

Doing these devotions has naturally led me to meditate on the Crucifixion of our Lord and also on the role of the Blessed Mother in our Lord's sacrifice.  She was with him literally every step of the way, never turning away from the horror and the pain, suffering right along with him, and yet never turning against any of those who were torturing her Son.  She was love personified.  She was also a wall of strength to all who stayed by her side.

I attended a Lenten reflection last night, and one of the topics brought up by the priest giving the reflection was Mary's role in the sacrifice of Christ.  I began to think more about that, and it dawned on me that at the Crucifixion, those who stayed with Mary also stayed with Christ, because that is where she was.  To follow Mary was to follow Christ.  All those who ran away - all but one of the apostles and all but a handful of the disciples - also abandoned Mary. 

I believe this is true for every believer.  If we will stay with Mary, Jesus' beloved mother whom he has given to us as our Mother, we will never stray from Christ.  She will be our strength and help us carry our crosses just as she was with her own Son on his way to Calvary, and throughout his entire life on this earth.  Those who stayed with Mary at the foot of the cross were given the courage and strength to face the horrors of that first Good Friday.  There is nothing that we can face that can be more horrific than that day, when perfect Goodness and Purity was crucified so that we could be saved.  

Here is a wonderful reflection on the martyrdom of Mary and her sufferings with her Son by St. Alphonsus Liguori from catholictradition.org

The Martyrdom of Mary Was Never Equaled
by St. Alphonsus Liguori
The words of the prophet Jeremias explain my meaning on this point:

To what shall I compare thee? or to what shall I liken thee, O daughter of Jerusalem? ... for great as the sea is thy destruction; who shall heal thee? (Lam. 2:13) No, the acuteness of the sufferings of Mary are not to be compared, even with those of all the Martyrs united. "The Martyrdom of Mary," says Saint Bernard, "was not caused by the executioner's sword, but proceeded from bitter sorrow of heart." In other Martyrs torments were inflicted on the body; but Mary's sorrow was in her heart and soul, verifying in her the prophecy of Simeon, Thy own soul a sword shall pierce. (Luke 2:35)
Arnold of Chartres writes that "whoever had been on Mount Calvary, to witness the great sacrifice of the Immaculate Lamb, would there have beheld two great altars, the one in the Body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary; for on that Mount, when the Son sacrificed His Body by death, Mary sacrificed her soul by compassion." So much so, says Saint Antoninus, that whereas other Martyrs sacrifice their own lives, the Blessed Virgin consummated her Martyrdom by sacrificing the life of her Son, a life which she loved far more than her own, and which caused her to endure a torment which exceeded all other torments ever endured by any mortal on earth.   
As a general rule, the sufferings of children are also the sufferings of their mothers who are present at and witness their torments. This Saint Augustine declares, when speaking of the mother of the Machabees, who witnessed the execution of her children, Martyred by order of the cruel Antiochus: he says that "Love caused her to endure in her soul all the torments inflicted on each of her children." Erasmus adds that "Mothers suffer more at the sight of the sufferings of their children than if the torments were inflicted on themselves." This, however, is not always true; but in Mary it was verified; for she certainly suffered more in witnessing the sufferings of her Son than she would have done had she endured all the torments in her own person. "All the wounds," says Saint Bonaventure, "which were scattered over the Body of Jesus were united in the heart of Mary, to torment her in the Passion of her Son" so that, as Saint Lawrence Justinian writes, "The heart of Mary, by compassion for her Son, became a mirror of His torments, in which might be seen, faithfully reflected, the spittings, the blows, the wounds, and all that Jesus suffered." We can therefore say that Mary, on account of the love that she bore Him, was in heart, during the Passion of her Son, struck, scourged, crowned with thorns, and nailed to the very Cross of her Son.
The same Saint Lawrence considers Jesus on His road to Calvary, with the Cross on His shoulders, turning to Mary and saying to her, "Alas, My Own dear Mother, where are you going? What a scene will you witness? You will be agonized by My sufferings, and I by yours." But the loving Mother would follow Him all the same, though she knew that, by being present at His death, she would have to endure a torment greater than any death. She saw that her Son carried the Cross to be crucified upon it; and, adds Abbot William, she also took up the cross of her sorrows, and followed her Son to be crucified with Him. Hence Saint Bonaventure considers Mary standing by the Cross of her dying Son, and asks her, saying, "O Lady, tell me where did you then stand---was it near the Cross? No, you were on the Cross itself, crucified with your Son." About these words of the Redeemer, foretold by the prophet Isaias, I have trodden the wine-press alone, and of the Gentiles there is not a man with me. (Isaias 63:3) Richard of St. Lawrence says, "It is true, O Lord, that in the work of human redemption You did suffer alone, and that there was not a man that sufficiently pitied You; but there was a woman with You, and she was Your Own Mother; she suffered in her heart all that You endured in Your Body."

To show the sufferings endured by other Martyrs they are represented with the instruments of their torture; Saint Andrew with a cross, Saint Paul with a sword, Saint Lawrence with a gridiron; Mary is represented with her dead Son in her arms; for He alone was the instrument of her Martyrdom, and compassion for Him made her the Queen of Martyrs. On this subject of Mary's compassion in the death of Jesus Christ, Father Pinamonti gives expression to a beautiful and remarkable opinion: he says, that "the grief of Mary in the passion of her Son was so great, that she alone compassionated in a degree by any means adequate to its merits the death of a God made man for the love of man."

Blessed Amadeus also writes, that "Mary suffered much more in the Passion of her Son than she would have done if she herself had endured it; for she loved her Jesus much more than she loved herself," Hence Saint Ildephonsus did not hesitate to assert, that "the sufferings of Mary exceed those of all Martyrs united together." Saint Anselm, addressing the Blessed Virgin, says, "The most cruel torments inflicted on the holy Martyrs were trifling or as nothing in comparison with your Martyrdom, O Mary." The same Saint adds, "Indeed, O Lady, in each moment of your life your sufferings were such that you could not have endured them, and would have expired under them, had not your Son, the source of your life, preserved you." Saint Bernadine of Sienna even says, that "the sufferings of Mary were such that had they been divided among all creatures capable of suffering, they would have caused their immediate death." Who, then, can ever doubt that the Martyrdom of Mary was without its equal, and that it exceeded the sufferings of all the Martyrs; since, as Saint Antoninus says, "they suffered in the sacrifice of their own lives; but the Blessed Virgin suffered by offering the life of her Son to God, a life which she loved far more than her own."

The Martyrs suffered under the torments inflicted on them by tyrants; but Our Lord, Who never abandons His servants, always comforted them in the midst of their sufferings. The love of God, which burnt in their hearts, rendered all these sufferings sweet and pleasing to them. Saint Vincent suffered, when on the rack he was torn with pincers and burnt with hot iron plates; but Saint Augustine says that "the Saint spoke with such contempt of his torments, that it seemed as if it was one who spoke and another who suffered." Saint Boniface suffered when the flesh was torn from his body with iron hooks, sharp reeds were forced under his nails and melted lead was poured into his mouth; but in the midst of all, he could never cease to thank Jesus Christ, Who allowed him to suffer for His love. Saint Lawrence suffered when roasting on a gridiron; "but the love which inflamed him," says Saint Augustine, "did not allow him to feel the fire, or even that prolonged death itself."

The greater the love of the Martyrs for Jesus Christ, the less they felt their pains: and in the midst of them all, the remembrance of the Passion of Christ sufficed to console them. With Mary it was precisely the reverse; for the torments of Jesus were her Martyrdom, and love for Jesus was her only executioner. Here we must repeat the words of Jeremias: As the sea is all bitterness, and has not within its bosom a single drop of water which is sweet, so also was the heart of Mary all bitterness, and without the least consolation: Who shall heal you? Her Son alone could heal her and heal her wounds; but how could Mary receive comfort in her grief from her crucified Son, since the love she bore Him was the whole cause of her Martyrdom?

"To understand, then, how great was the grief of Mary, we must understand," says Cornelius a Lapide, "how great was the love she bore her Son." But who can ever measure this love?

Blessed Amadeus says, that "natural love towards Him as her Son, and supernatural love towards Him as her God, were united in the heart of Mary."

These two loves were blended into one, and this so great a love that William of Paris does not hesitate to assert, that Mary loved Jesus ''as much as it was possible for a pure creature to love Him." So that, as Richard of St. Victor says, ''as no other creature loved God as Mary loved Him, so there was never any sorrow like Mary's sorrow."

Now there stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother. Let us stay awhile to consider these words before concluding our discourse; but I entreat you to renew your attention.

There stood. When Jesus was on the Cross, the disciples had already abandoned Him; they had done so from the moment in which He was taken in the Garden of Olives: then the disciples all leaving Him fled. (Matt. 26:56) The disciples abandoned Him; but His loving Mother did not abandon Him; she remained with Him until He expired.

There stood by. Mothers fly when they see their children suffer much, and are unablehers fly when they see their children suffer much, and are unable to give them relief; they have not the strength to endure the torment, and therefore fly to a distance. Mary beheld her Son in agony on the Cross; she saw that His sufferings were slowly depriving Him of life; she desired to relieve Him in that last extremity, but could not; but with all this she did not fly, she did not go to a distance, but drew nearer to the Cross on which her Son was dying.

She stood by the Cross. The Cross was the hard bed on which Jesus Christ had to die. Mary, who stood by its side, never turned her eyes from Him; she beheld Him all torn by the scourges, thorns, and nails; she saw that her poor Son, suspended by those three iron hooks, found no repose. She, as I have already said, would have desired to give Him some relief; she would have desired, at least, that He should have expired in her arms; but no, even this is forbidden her. "Ah, Cross!" she must have said, "restore me my Son; you are a gibbet for malefactors, but my Son is innocent." But wait, O sorrowful Mother; God's will is that the Cross should only restore you your Son when He has expired.

Saint Bonaventure, considering the sorrow of Mary in the death of her Son, writes, that "no grief was more bitter than hers, because no son was as dear as her Son." Since, then, there never was a son more worthy than Jesus, nor any mother who ever loved as Mary loved, what sorrow can be compared with the sorrow of Mary? "Ah, there never has been in the world a more amiable Son than Jesus," says Richard of St. Lawrence, "nor was there ever so loving a Mother. Had there been less love between this Mother and Son, His death would have been less cruel, their griefs would have been diminished: but the more tender were their loves, the deeper were their wounds." Mary saw that death approached her Son; therefore, casting her compassionate eyes upon Him, she seemed to say, "Ah, Son, You already depart, already You leave me; and are You silent? Give me a last remembrance." Yes, He did so. Jesus Christ left her a remembrance; it was this: Woman, He said, behold your son, referring to Saint John, who stood near; and with these words He bade her farewell. He called her woman, that by the sweet name of mother He might not increase her grief: Woman, behold your son, he will take charge of you when I am dead.

There stood by the Cross of Jesus His Mother. Let us finally observe Mary, who stood at the foot of the Cross and beheld her Son expire. But, a God, what Son was it that died? It was a Son Who from all eternity had chosen her for His Mother, and had preferred her in His love to all men and Angels: it was a Son so beautiful, so holy, so amiable; a Son Who had always obeyed her; a Son Who was her only love, for He was her Son and her God; and Mary had to see Him die before her eyes, of pure suffering. But behold, the hour of the death of Jesus has already come; the afflicted Mother saw her Son then enduring the last assaults of death; behold, again, His Body was already sinking, His head drooped down on His breast, His mouth opened, and He expired. The people cry out, "He is dead! He is dead!" And Mary also said, "Ah, my Jesus, my Son, You are now dead!"

When Jesus was dead, He was taken down from the Cross. Mary received Him with outstretched arms; she then pressed Him to her heart, and examined that head wounded by the thorns, those hands pierced with nails, and that body all lacerated and torn. "Ah, Son," she said, "to what has Your love for men reduced You!" But the disciples, fearing that with her Son clasped in her arms she would die of grief, out of compassion approached her, and with reverential determination, removed her Son from her arms, wrapped Him in the winding sheet, and carried Him away to bury Him. The other holy women accompanied Him, and with them the sorrowful Mother followed her Son to the tomb; where, having herself deposited Him with her own hands, she bade Him a last farewell and retired. Saint Bernard says, that ''as Mary passed along the way, her sorrow and grief were such, that all who met her were thereby moved to tears;" and he adds that "those who accompanied her were weeping rather for her than for Our Lord."

My readers, let us be devout to the sorrows of Mary. Saint Albert the Great writes, that ''as we are under great obligations to Jesus Christ for His death, so also are we under great obligations to Mary for the grief which she endured when she offered her Son to God by death for our salvation." This the Angel revealed to Saint Bridget: he said that the Blessed Virgin, to see us saved, herself offered the life of her Son to the Eternal Father: a sacrifice which, as we have already said, cost her greater suffering than all the torments of the Martyrs, or even death itself. But the Divine Mother complained to Saint Bridget that very few pitied her in her sorrows, and that the greater part of the world lived in entire forgetfulness of them. Therefore she exhorted the Saint, saying: "Though many forget me, don't you, my daughter, forget me." For this purpose the Blessed Virgin herself appeared in the year 1239 to the founder of the Order of the Servites, or Servants of Mary, to requested them to institute a religious order in remembrance of her sorrows; and this they did.

Jesus Himself one day spoke to Blessed Veronica of Binasco, saying, "Daughter, tears shed over My Passion are dear to Me: but as I love My Mother Mary with an immense love, the meditation of the sorrows which she endured at My death is also very dear to Me." It is also well to know, as Pelbart relates it, that it was revealed to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, that Our Lord had promised four special graces to those who are devout to the sorrows of Mary:
  • 1st, that those who before death invoke the Divine Mother, in the name of her sorrows, should obtain true repentance of all their sins:  
  • 2nd, that He would protect all who have this devotion in their tribulations, and that He would protect them especially at the hour of death:  
  • 3rd, that He would impress upon their minds the remembrance of His Passion, and that they should have their reward for it in Heaven:  
  • 4th, that He would commit such devout clients to the hands of Mary, with the power to dispose of them in whatever manner she might please, and to obtain for them all the graces she might desire.
+ + + + + + + + + +
There are two kinds of Martyrs, one in open suffering, the other in the hidden virtue of the spirit. For many, enduring the snares of the enemy and resisting all carnal desires, because they have sacrificed themselves in their hearts to Almighty God, have also become martyrs in time of peace, and if they had lived in time of persecution, they could have been Martyrs in reality.
---Saint Isidore

I once heard a priest compare Mary to Abraham, who was asked to sacrifice his son upon the altar.  But at the last moment, God spared Abraham from having to follow through and instead provided a lamb, which prefigured the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  God said to Abraham:  "I know that thou fearest God, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake." (Gen. 22;12)  For that, God made Abraham the father of many nations:  "By my own self have I sworn, saith the Lord: because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only begotten son for my sake: I will bless thee, and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand that is by the sea shore: thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice."  (Gen 22:16-18). 

If this was true for Abraham, how much more is it true for our Blessed Mother, who gave us her Perfect Son, and was willing to watch him be so cruelly tortured and put to death for our sake as she herself suffered this death in her own heart.  That is why we call her our Blessed Mother, the mother of all Christians.  She is the one who will always lead us directly to her Son, and just as she never left the side of Jesus, so she will never abandon us.  To stay by the side of Mary is to stay by the side of Jesus.

What a wonderful gift our Lord has given us in His Mother!

At the Cross Her Station Keeping
Stood the Mournful Mother Weeping
Close to Jesus to the Last

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where America Goes, Persecution Follows (For Christians)

I have previously posted about the fate of Christians whenever Americans invade or "help liberate" a country.  Almost without fail, Christians are persecuted, driven out and/or killed.  Is it a coincidence?  It seems almost impossible for this to be true given the number of times it has happened in recent history. 

Just this past weekend, the New York Times had an article dealing with the fate of Christians in Iraq.  This was probably the oldest existing community of Christians anywhere in the world, dating back to the time of the Apostles.  They even still speak Aramaic, the same language spoken by Jesus and the Apostles.  These Christians survived thousands of years under many different conditions, and thrived even under Saddam Hussein, whom we were told was the most evil man in the world. 

But then the Americans invaded and "liberated" Iraq, and now the Iraqi Christians are being systematically destroyed. 


Exodus From North Signals Iraqi Christians’ Slow Decline

TENNA, Iraq — Iraq’s dwindling Christians, driven from their homes by attacks and intimidation [which did not happen until the Americans invaded], are beginning to abandon the havens they had found in the country’s north, discouraged by unemployment and a creeping fear that the violence they had fled was catching up to them.

Their quiet exodus to Turkey, Jordan, Europe and the United States is the latest chapter of a seemingly inexorable decline that many religious leaders say tolls the twilight of Christianity in a land where city skylines have long been marked by both minarets and church steeples. Recent assessments say that Iraq’s Christian population has now fallen by more than half since the 2003 American invasion, and with the military’s departure, some Christians say they lost a protector of last resort.

Their flight is felt in places like the wind-scoured village of Tenna, which has sheltered dozens of Christian migrants over the past nine years. The families fleeing Baghdad’s death squads and bombings found safety here beneath the hulking mountains, but little else besides poverty, boredom and cold. Villagers estimate that half of the 50 or so Christian homes are now empty, their families abroad. Walid Shamoon, 42, wants to be the next to leave. He said he left Iraq’s capital in January 2011 after a confrontation with Shiite militia members set off a nightmare of escalating death threats and an attempt on his life. A brother had already been killed in a mortar attack six years earlier, so he said he quit his contract job with the Australian Embassy, giving up a $1,500 monthly salary, and came here.

These days, all he can think about is his application to emigrate to Arizona.

“This is not a life,” he said one recent afternoon, as a blizzard raced down from the mountains. “There is no improvement. There is no work.”

Many of the people now struggling in Iraq’s Kurdish north came in the wake of a suicide attack in Baghdad at Our Lady of Salvation Church in October 2010. It was the single worst assault on Iraq’s Christians since the war began, one that left 50 worshipers and 2 priests dead and that turned the church into a charnel house of scorched pews and shattered stained glass.

Christian families in Baghdad grabbed clothing, cash and a few other provisions and headed north for the Christian communities along the Nineveh plain and Kurdistan’s three provinces. They joined tens of thousands of other Christians from the capital, Mosul and other cities who traced similar arcs after earlier attacks and assassination campaigns.

“They traded everything for security,” said the Rev. Gabriel Tooma, who leads the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in the Christian town of Qosh, which took in dozens of families.

The Christians in northern Iraq make up a tiny fraction of Iraq’s legions of displaced people. In all, there are 1.3 million of them across the country, according to the most recent United Nations estimates. Many live in garbage dumps, shanty towns and squalor far worse than anything facing the Christian families in Kurdistan.

Still, Christians and other minorities were singled out in the years of sectarian cleansing that bifurcated a once-diverse Baghdad into pockets of Sunnis and Shiites. Estimates by the United States and international organizations say that Iraq’s prewar Christian population of 800,000 to 1.4 million now stands at less than 500,000.

The consequence of this flight may be the end of Christianity in Iraq,” the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote in its most recent annual report, summarizing the concerns of church leaders.

In January, the International Organization for Migration found that 850 of 1,350 displaced Christian families it was tracking in northern Iraq had left in the past year. Many cited fears about security as well as the strains of finding work, housing and schools in an unfamiliar place where they had few connections and spoke only Arabic, and not Kurdish.

“No one has done anything for us,” said Salim Yono Auffee, a member of the Chaldean/Assyrian Popular Council, a Christian group in northern Iraq. “These people are trying to figure out how to build their futures, to find homes, to get married. And they are leaving Iraq.” [The "no one" mentioned here includes the United States, which has done nothing to help the persecuted Christians.]
Even in the relative safety of Kurdistan, some Christians say they still live in apprehension. A kidnapping of a Christian businessman in Erbil, the Kurdish capital, and a recent outbreak of riots and arson attacks against Christian-owned liquor stores in Dohuk Province — the northernmost in Iraq, along the Turkish border — have deeply unsettled Christian migrants to the area.

Seven years ago, after retrieving his son from kidnappers, Salam Meti Abdul Karim moved his family from Mosul to the small Christian community of Shioz, a half-hour’s drive from the center of Dohuk Province. The years passed quietly, until one night in December, when a pickup truck full of men pulled up at the edge of town and set fire to a liquor warehouse.

“I felt like history was repeating itself,” Mr. Abdul Karim said. “We worry the situation is just going to devolve into violence. I was thinking to just take my family and go up to the mountains.”

The village hired armed guards after the attack, Mr. Abdul Karim said.

No Christians were killed in the riots against Christian store owners. Local officials say they were not specifically targeted because of their religion, but because the mobs who burned their stores — and the conservative clerics who had incited them — viewed the alcohol sales as un-Islamic.

Still, Kurdish officials, who have welcomed Christians to the region, rushed to defuse fears conjured by the clash. Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish president, visited Christians in Zakho, the city where the riots were centered, and a parade of government officials and religious leaders emphasized Kurdistan’s historical tolerance, and its deep ties to Assyrians, Chaldeans and other branches of Christianity.

“They are part of us,” said Fadil Omar, the head of the provincial council in Dohuk.

The Kurdish government has offered land, free fuel and other assistance to Christians as they have arrived from Baghdad, and it has opened its universities to students from Mosul, officials say. And Christians do not lack a political voice. They sit on local and provincial councils throughout the north, and hold seats in Parliament in Kurdistan and Baghdad.

Despite the help, many families say they are straining to stay afloat. Those close to cities have found jobs, but those in villages are largely unemployed, and they subsist on government pensions or relief payments of about $200 per month. They skip meals and share heating fuel. They are often miles from schools that teach in Arabic, and some parents say their children have dropped out.

The mountain village of Dawudiyah is a study in trade-offs, a place whose residents share similar stories of fear and flight from their homes in Baghdad. One man was threatened with death if he did not hand over his daughter to militants. A couple’s son was killed on his way home from work. Another family’s son was gunned down with three friends. They gave little thought to the consequences of leaving. They just had to get out.

“It was unbearable,” said Berkho Odeesho, the village’s mayor. “We found safety in Kurdistan, but things are getting unstable. We don’t know where to go.”

But like others here, Mr. Odeesho has a plan. He has applied for an immigration visa, and he is now busy preparing for his consular interview. Uprooting his family from Iraq may be difficult, he said, but it would be in service of a new future, away from Iraq, in a distant place called Illinois [where the Obama Administration is working hard to destroy the Church].

Monday, March 12, 2012

SOUR GRAPES? PRIEST PLACED ON "ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE"

Father Marcel Guarnizo
Just yesterday I posted about the situation with Father Marcel Guarnizo, who denied communion to a self-professed lesbian.  It has also come out that she doesn't even pretend to be a practicing Catholic but labels herself a Buddhist.  Well, this just gets curiouser and curiouser.  Fr. Marcel Guarnizo has now been placed on Administrative Leave by Auxillary Bishop Knestout, who originally reprimanded Fr. Guarnizo in this situation.  Msgr. Knestout says that he has "has received several complaints against Fr. Guarnizo claiming intimidating behaviour on his part against parish staff and others, and 'that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry.'"  Msgr. Knestout give us no details whatsoever as to what he is referring.  Hmmmmm.

Ed Peters, an expert on Canon law, gives this explanation:
Most of the lesbian/Communion controversy has been a dis-edifying parade of misleading commentary being proffered about misapplied laws. I don’t write here to correct these many errors, as their partisans (whether ‘left’ or ‘right’) don’t seem especially interested in what the law actually says, but I am happy to offer some observations on Msgr. Knestout’s letter of March 9 for those who are trying to understand what is, and is not, at work in this matter.

1. Fr. Guarnizo has not been suspended (suspension is a canonical penalty levied only upon guilt for crimes, per c. 1333), but he has been placed on “administrative leave”, a term not found in the Code, but nevertheless serving as a practical description of a situation in which, usually, one is not permitted to function as a cleric for so long as a wider situation requires resolution. A priest’s faculties for confession, preaching (homilies), witnessing weddings, etc. can be restricted a couple of different ways, and there is no reason to think that those ways were not satisfied in this action (although direct discussion of them is lacking).

From the text of the letter, I cannot tell whether Guarnizo is prohibited from celebrating Mass even in private (he is certainly prohibited from public celebration), although the trend in such cases is to allow for private celebration. This question could easily be addressed between Knestout and Guarnizo, and probably has already been answered.

2. A vicar general almost certainly has sufficient authority to issue such a letter (c. 479 § 1); one may expect the Cardinal to be informed of this action in a timely manner (c. 480).

3. As a parochial vicar, Guarnizo has considerably fewer procedural rights to office than would a pastor. Compare a pastor’s rights under c. 522, etc., and c. 1740 etc., with those of a parochial vicar, per c. 552. All associate pastors know this.

4. Guarnizo is not “incardinated” in the Archdiocese of Washington (c. 265 etc.); the situation of an “extern” priest is inherently more tenuous than is the situation of locally incardinated clergy, it being a function more of contract (express or implied) than of law. All extern priests know this.

5. Little in Knestout’s letter suggests that this action is being taken in response to the lesbian/Communion controversy (though one may be sure that the pro-lesbian camp will claim victory, and the pro-Guarnizo camp will decry the ‘mistreatment’ of the priest).

The allegations of “intimidating behavior” by Guarnizo are not recited in Knestout’s letter, but three questions would occur to me: (a) is this just a pile-on by people looking to kick Guarnizo while he is down?, or (b) are there long-standing legitimate complaints against Guarnizo that the recent controversy made more likely to surface? , or (c) did Guarnizo’s post-controversy conduct in the parish render him intemperate with others, provoking what are really recent complaints? Such are the things that an investigation is designed to, well, investigate.

6. The letter expresses the hope that Guarnizo will be able to return to priestly ministry. + + +

So, I noticed some hits coming from WaPo, and I clicked back to see what was sending readers my way. Now, I’m confused.

A Washington Post news blog by one Michelle Boorstein states that “Specific details about why the Rev. Marcel Guarnizo was barred from ministry – a severe penalty – were not immediately available.” The words “a severe penalty” are hot-linked to my post above.

But, the very first point of my post above is that Guarnizo is NOT under a penalty (let alone, a severe one, a description of suspension that I never used).

Ever wonder why so few professionals try to blog complex current events? It’s because we usually end up wondering, how on earth can our crystal clear statements be so completely misunderstood and/or misrepresented? Sigh.

I would probably get in trouble for posting this anywhere else, but since this is my blog, I can only say that in IMHO, it sure seems like "sour grapes" on the part of Msgr. Knestout.  He penalizes this priest and gives only the vaguest of explanations.  Dr  Peters seems to be trying to be as fair as possible in explaning this process, but it just doesn't add up to me.  As I posted previously, I certainly didn't think there would be an apology forthcoming from Msgr. Knestout, but it never entered my mind that he would go this far.  I hope and pray that Fr. Guarnizo just plays it cool and lets things work out as they should.  If he is in the right, it will be shown.  This is could be a very good learning situation for all. 

Is the following the manner in which bishops would like communion to be distributed?

Not Perfect? You Have No Right to Life

I posted a few days ago about an Oregon couple who are suing because the results of a test of their pre-born baby did not show that she had Down Syndrome.  If they had known this, they would have killed the baby while it was still legal so as not to be burdened with raising a handicapped child.

Well, the verdict came in last Friday, and the jury unanimously voted to give these parents $3 million for a "wrongful birth."  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there is such a thing as wrongful birth in our society - babies who have no right being born.   And because they insist on being born anyway, the price tag has been set at $3 million. 

This is an unbelievably horrific consequence of abortion.  The child in this particular case is mentally handicapped, so hopefully she will never know or understand that she has no right to life.  But her brothers know, and everyone else in the world now knows it. 

Here is the story:

Jury awards nearly $3 million to Portland-area couple in 'wrongful birth' lawsuit against Legacy Health




A jury this afternoon awarded nearly $3 million to a Portland-area couple whose daughter was born with Down syndrome even though a prenatal test found she didn't have the chromosomal abnormality.
The jury voted 12-0, taking less than six hours before reaching a verdict in the case of Ariel and Deborah Levy vs. Legacy Health System. The decision capped a 10-day highly emotional trial in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The money will cover the estimated extra lifetime costs of caring for a child with Down syndrome.

Deborah Levy, who had held her emotions in check throughout the trial, began to cry as Judge Karin Immergut read the verdict. The couple nodded and mouthed "thank you" as jurors filed out of the courtroom. A few nodded back, smiled or reached out a hand toward the Levys. One juror visibly held back tears. Another wished them peace.  [Does anyone care about the child?  Do the jurors realize that by rendering this decision, they have said this child should never have been born, that she has no right to life?]

After jurors left the room, Ariel and Deborah Levy shared a long embrace.The couple sued Legacy Health, claiming that Deborah Levy would have aborted her pregnancy had she known her daughter had the chromosomal abnormality. The lawsuit blames Legacy's Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in North Portland and a Legacy lab for allegedly botching the test.  
The case was one of just a handful of so-called "wrongful birth" suits estimated to be filed each year in the United States, bioethics experts say. It was one of an even rarer few to go to trial -- and garner a multi-million dollar verdict. In the process, the case stirred passionate public debate nationally and even internationally. The judge prohibited media in the courtroom from photographing or recording images of the couple, whose attorney said had received death threats.

Experts say so few parents choose to file wrongful birth suits because it forces them to take an awkward position: They must be willing to say on the record that they would have aborted the pregnancy, and that they feel a burden -- albeit financial -- of raising the child.  [At least there are some people who still realize the terrible message this sends to the child and to the rest of the world.]

The Levys' attorney, David K. Miller, said his clients deeply love their daughter but worried about being portrayed as heartless. [Who would ever think that a couple who would have preferred to kill their baby is "heartless"??] Miller said they sued because they worried about providing all that their daughter would need over her lifetime. [And just how have people down through history provided for their children?  They didn't go around suing people.]  Experts testified that she will continue to need speech and physical therapy and face a concerning list of possible medical problems over her lifetime. Professionals have told the Levys that she will likely never be able to live independently, or earn a living.

According to several studies, 89 percent or more of expectant mothers who learned their children would have Down syndrome chose to terminate the pregnancies.

Jurors said they found Legacy Health negligent on five fronts, including that the doctor who performed the prenatal test took too small of a sample from Levy's womb to be useful. They concluded that employees -- including the doctor who took the sample and lab workers who analyzed it -- failed to communicate, leading to the erroneous result.

"I don't think there's a winner in this," said one juror, who like others, declined to be named because of the high profile of the case.  [Ah, but there is a winner in this case - his name is Satan, who has been highly served.]

The Levys spoke of the challenges of raising a special-needs child, including concerns about her health, her ability to communicate and whether she'll get the attention she needs once she starts public-school kindergarten in the fall.

"I have two children," the juror said, "and it's hard to watch another mother, another family, go through all that."  [Is there anyone who cares about the child and what she has to go through??]

The Levys were the parents of two young boys when in November 2006 they were surprised to learn Deborah Levy was pregnant again. Because she was 34, she and her husband were concerned about the possibility of genetic disorders. Experts testified that about 1 in 250 women that age give birth to a baby with Down syndrome. A first-trimester screening estimated Deborah Levy's chances were even higher: 1 in 130.

Roughly 13 weeks into her pregnancy, Deborah Levy went to Legacy's Center for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in North Portland, where Dr. Thomas Jenkins performed a prenatal test called chorionic villus sampling, or CVS for short. A Legacy lab tested a small amount of tissue that the doctor had removed from Levy's womb. The results showed the Levy's daughter had a normal chromosomal profile.

Although in the following weeks two ultrasounds showed abnormalities that sometimes indicate Down syndrome, the Levys testified they were assured that their daughter would not have the chromosomal abnormality. Legacy staff did not advise them to get an amniocentesis, which is another prenatal test that detects Down syndrome.

Within a week of their daughter's birth, they were devastated to find out that the girl, Kalanit, did indeed have Down syndrome.

The Levys contended that Dr. Thomas Jenkins removed maternal tissue -- not fetal tissue -- during the CVS procedure. The suit alleged that Jenkins and lab workers didn't recognize that the tissue was from the mother.

Legacy's attorney, Robert Keating, called on experts who said the CVS was properly done, and that the results showed the girl has a normal genetic profile because she has mosiac Down syndrome, meaning a significant number of her cells don't contain an extra 21st chromosome.
The Levys are Jewish.  One would think that they would be even more aware than the average person that what they proposed to do with this child is exactly what Hitler did in Germany - kill all "undesirables."  They and all who think like them are no better than Hitler or any other mass killer.  They have decided they are the ones who make the decision about who lives and who dies.  They have no right to ever criticize Hitler or anyone else like him. 

God bless this little girl and all others like her, those whom our society has decided are undesirable and have no right to life. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Further Thoughts: "Wrongful Birth"

I just recently posted about a couple in Oregon who are suing their doctors because their unborn baby was not diagnosed with Down Syndrome in time for them to abort her.  Because the baby was not diagnosed until after birth, the parents are "stuck" taking care of her, and they want the doctors to pay $3 million to cover all the costs of taking care of their child for her entire lifetime.

If this couple wins this lawsuit, it will set an extremely dangerous precedent.  All gynecologists and obstetricians and anyone else involved in caring for pregnant women and/or delivering babies are going to be hypersensitive when it comes to diagnosing birth defects in pre-born babies.  If there is the slightest chance that a baby will not be physically perfect, they will be pushing for abortion.  And most likely, women would have to sign some sort of release form saying they have been warned of possible birth defects in their babies and have chosen not to abort, thus leaving the doctor legally off the hook if the baby is born with a defect of any kind.  This, unfortunately, will scare most women into having an abortion if there is so much as a hint of an abnormality in the baby.  Just as the doctors were wrong in this case when they told the parents in Oregon that their baby was completely normal, doctors can be and have been wrong when telling their patients that their babies had birth defects.  Tim Tebow is a case in point.  The doctors told his mother that he would be born with major birth defects and urged her to have an abortion.  She refused, and the result is the major professional athlete that we see today.

If this lawsuit succeeds, it will also push more women to undergo
amniocentesis, a dangerous and invasive procedure in which the doctor inserts a needle into a pregnant woman's abdomen in order to extract amniotic fluid from which they can test for any abnormalities in the baby.  Most doctors will tell you that it is basically a safe procedure, but at the same time, there are tremendous risks involved, including sticking the baby with the needle, infection and miscarriage.  No one and nothing should be invading the womb of a pregnant woman. 


Our society continues more and more on the downward spiral, descending into the depths of moral depravity and disregard for human life.  We need to stand up against this, uniting in prayer and not being afraid to speak out if we are given the opportunity.  The most precious creation in the universe is human life, because it was for the salvation of humans that our Lord came to earth and poured out His Precious Blood on the cross.  If He thought human life was important enough for Him to allow his own Creation to crucify him in order to save them, we have no right to hold human life in any less regard.
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